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The 6th annual PICARD (Partnership In Customs Academic Research and Development) Conference took place on 14-16 September, 2011, at the premises of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. CASSANDRA project was presented to the audience of approximately 200 conference delegates by Ph.D. student Toni Männistö, CBRA, along with FOCUS and LOGSEC projects introduced by Dr. Luca Urciuoli, CBRA. The conference delegates received also CASSANDRA brochures for further information.

The main outcome of the conference can be wrapped up in three objectives:
• Research should focus on practical customs issues
• Education and training should match emerging needs
• PICARD should provide a continuous collaboration forum in order to meet the needs of customs, academia and the private sector.

Six years on – PICARD 2011 and prospects for the future

The representatives from WCO Capacity Building Directorate, gave an overview of the PICARD programme’s recent developments and state of play. They presented the WCO Virtual Working Group and CLiCK, the e-learning and training platform – new tools to help members work towards coherent customs career development worldwide. PICARD Advisory Group Members provided regional updates on education and research projects from all over the world.

The conference discussions touched upon the growing concerns that customs are today not attractive enough as employers to hire the best available talent. In order to enhance the professional quality of the future customs force globally, the conference participants discussed how the sector could benefit from support from and interaction with the academic world in solving this dilemma.

CBM and Measuring Performance

Practical examples on how Coordinated Border Management is increasingly harnessed to reduce costs, increase the effectiveness of clearance and controls, as well as increase political cooperation between countries were provided in presentations describing experiences in Sweden and Switzerland.

The Russian and French models and methods to measure the performance of customs stressed an outcome-focused approach and discussed the limitations of reality in measuring performance. It was also pointed out that eventually administrations are taking decisions based on their interpretation of the indicators.

Economic Security and Integrity

The conference audience learned that there are low-cost, low-risk methods for trade facilitation that also ensure correctly paid duties. Taking a look at integrity issues, it was noted that cultural differences can have a major impact on the perception of corruption and bribes. Thus overall public resistance to corruption is decisive to overcoming the problem, together with transparency of procedures.

Future PICARD – recognition, repositioning and relevance

Three days deliberations were summarized in last day’s Big Panel and delegates wishes, collected by conference facilitators:

• The PICARD concept should be widely known and accepted, and recognized as a valuable networking tool for customs and academia.
• Needs of trade should be better recognized by customs, and business participation increased in PICARD.
• Many more universities should be actively encouraged to become involved with PICARD.
• The importance of the cultural differences and different geo-political and economic perspectives should be acknowledged and taken into account.
• Lecturers and customs officials should strive towards internationally agreed professional standards, enabling them to interact effectively beyond their own borders.
• PICARD should focus more on research relevant to trade and businesses.
• Research and education should be regionally adapted.
• Strategic Roadmap for PICARD “the PICARD2020 Vision” should be developed.

CBRA would like to give special thanks to UNECE, SECO, Swiss Federal Customs and Cotecna Inspection, whose contributions enabled organizing the conference. Thanks also to the PICARD2011 Band, Luis and the Gang, who entertained guests during the evenings, with hit songs including Border-Joe. CBRA research team is happy to provide conference materials and answer any questions about PICARD2011 and follow-up research activities, please email us at: cbra@cross-border.org